Dhaka delights

Arrived in Dhaka at silly o’clock having changed at Hong Kong. The journey was interesting – certainly highlighted the differences between Japanese service staff and Hong Kong air stewardesses! After a bit of visa confusion at Sapporo airport, landing at Dhaka was a straightforward process – largely thanks to my ‘facilitator’ organised by M. He picked me up, whisked me thru immigration and sorted out my $50, 15 day visa, before helping me with my bags into the BHC Land Rover Defender and off into the night. I learn a teeny bit of Bangla and chat, before arriving in Gulshan – one of the nice diplomatic-areas of Dhaka.

M’s place is lovely, big, bright and airy – certainly not representative of a typical Dhaka residence. We spend our first day wandering around Gulshan – visiting the Commissariat, where diplomatic staff can buy Cadbury’s chocolate, Haribo and pretty much anything you can get from home. Pop to the BAGHA (British Aid Guest House Association) club, the alternative to the British High Commission – pleasant, but slightly colonial feel to it.
After Japan, the heat and humidity and exhausting – plus I discover later that this is the hottest day they’ve had for a while!
Surprised by nice coffee shops and restaurants popping up in Gulshan – certainly not what I expected. Atmosphere is quite a contrast to the quiet order of Japan – you definitely feel a novelty as every pair of eyes follows your every move, M had warned me about the staring, but it really is something else to experience and definitely 10 times worse when I’m with her.
Regular approaches by professional beggars (they pay a local mafia for their pitch) are dismissed with a ‘ma coren’ or ‘lakbhe na’ – I forget which means which, but one means ‘sorry’, the other means ‘I don’t need it’. Quite hard to resist the temptation, but I have to try to think of the behaviour it reinforces and the structural changes that are needed to tackle poverty – but the human dimension is hard to ignore.